Social Security Disability benefits are a lifeline for many Americans, but sometimes during the process of application applicants are denied those benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) can justify this denial for several reasons, but fortunately there are ways to appeal and the possibility to earn your benefits. Though both processes are time consuming (initial application and appeal), it is important to put in the work, often with the help of an attorney, to get that financial lifeline. This article will outline your rights and the four-stage process of filing an appeal with the Social Security Administration.
If your application is denied a letter will be sent to you outlining the reasons why. You can either be denied based on medical reasons or non-medical reasons, and denials can come down to whether you were denied another type of benefit (like retirement or a spousal benefit), denial because you do not have an adequate length of time for your work history, or a disagreement about you being overpaid by the SSA. From there you have 60 days from the time of your notice to file your appeal.
By law you are entitled to legal representation during the SSD application and appeal process and having an attorney on your side can make the process easier. There are two types of representation you are eligible for: 1) a disability lawyer, and 2) a disability advocate. Each one performs the same function on your behalf, but the difference is that a disability lawyer will handle many different types of cases, such as worker’s compensation, personal injury, family law, while a disability advocate (also called a non-attorney representation firm) only handles Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases.
When the time comes, you or your representative are able to file the appeal so long as it is within the 60-day time period. Once a request for appeal has been made, either through the mail or online (https://secure.ssa.gov/iApplsRe/start) you should regularly check the status of your hearing through your my Social Security account (https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/). Eventually a hearing will be set, and the SSA website outlines the four levels of appeal:
- Hearing by an administrative law judge.
- Review by the Appeals Council.
- Federal Court review.
With Reconsideration, you have to file either Form SSA-561-U2 (Request for Reconsideration) or Form SSA-789 (Request for Reconsideration – Disability Cessation). For the latter form, where your disability payments have ceased, you need to file a written appeal within 10 days, not 60, in order to have your payments reactivated during the reconsideration process.
If you disagree with the decision made during Reconsideration, then you and your representatives can opt for a hearing before a judge by completing Form HA–501. If you yourself do not want to appear before the judge, you can request that the judge decide based on the information in your file. If you do choose to present yourself before the judge you may be required to take additional medical exams, which will be paid for by the SSA. It is important to note the 5 days before your hearing you will have to send all written evidence with you, old and new, an outline of your objections, and any pre-hearing written statements you have.
If the hearing does not work out in your favor, then you can file with the Appeals Council by completing a Form HA–520 on the ssa.gov website. The appeals council will examine any new evidence that you bring, as long as it is related to the time period on or before the hearing date and if it will have a reasonable probability of affecting the decision outcome.
Finally, if the Appeals Council denies your benefits, you can file for a Federal Court review with the U.S. District court in your region. In this instance you will need to have legal representation, as the SSA does not aid with the formal process. They will review the previous decisions and may send your case back to the appeals council for a new hearing.
Throughout this process it is important to have a Social Security Disability Attorney on your side. As we can see, the stages of appeals are complex, and often overwhelming, so having someone on your side can work to your advantage.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!